Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Nigel is Jason. And American. From Kentucky, actually. So basically, a total fraud.

So I've mentioned before that Nigel is a musician. In this case, when I say "musician," I mean legitimate, seasoned, professional musician. His band Sink to See is booking gigs and writing new music. They're doing what I wish I was doing with writing.

He's worked lots of other jobs in the name of eating food and paying rent over the last 20 or so years, but as all "musicians" know, that's kind of the way it works.

Currently, he's a full-time, professional musician. And his real (non-blog) name is Jason.

In my years on this earth, I've known (and/or met) many creative people. People who get paid to perform their art for the world, whether it be via music, artwork (I've known fewer of those, although Jason does that quite well, as well), music, etc.

I even licked one of them. She's my imaginary bestie, and I promise that statement is less creepy to her than it is to you.

 This is the first time in my life that I've lived with one. And not only lived with him, but am engaged to, and will be marrying him in exactly 40 days.

I can honestly say that this experience has been unlike anything I ever imagined.

I mean that in both the best, and the least-best, kind of way.

For example, I left for work at about 6:30 this morning and got home at about 7:00 this evening. We sat on our bed together for an hour (in a studio apartment, the bed is used for sleeping/eating/TV watching/writing music/any other possible thing), and he just left for a rehearsal in Venice, CA. He'll be gone until probably midnight or so, at which point I will be long asleep, and I'll see him again when I leave for work in the morning.

I work in a very office-hours-centric industry. It's just the nature of accounting. There's really nothing to be done about that.

He works in a very anti-office-hours industry, probably because the people who buy music and pay to see live concerts can't show up during office-hours. Although, honestly, since living in LA and knowing Jason's friends and colleagues, the most dependable fans are the same people who are technically competing for your audience.

But it makes perfect sense, really, that art happens on the outskirts of reality.

For us, this means we have exceptionally limited time together, except in passing. And who knows? Maybe that's the secret to a long and happy life together. I love having time alone - personal space, if you will - and it's tough to get when living in a glorified shoe box. There are many nights when I'm relieved he's leaving the moment I get home because I am beyond exhausted and want to crash the moment I get home.

But most of the time, I miss him.

In a perfect world, we'd be equal in our ability to earn a living, creatively. I sometimes daydream about a life in which I'm floating around in a sailboat, writing brilliant (of course) prose, possibly working on some fiction, and he's on the other side of the deck writing the most beautiful songs about how beautiful it is to watch me write. We've actually done things very similar to that, except that when he's writing music, I tend to get sucked in, and it very quickly becomes all about the music. I can't concentrate on my art when the shiny bobble is tickling my ears. That's one of the detriments of my being such a fan of good music.

Honestly, our opposing schedules should be a really big issue, especially since we're currently sharing a car (THANK YOU, 405 FREEWAY, for destroying an axle and THANK YOU GOD for making sure it happened in the middle of the night, when it wasn't likely to maim or kill anyone involved).

But really, it's not. It's hard to see so little of the man I love so much. But at the end of the day, I'm grateful that we both love our jobs. If we didn't - and I know from experience - the delicate, inside parts of our souls would start to die, and we'd very quickly end up in a Bad Place.

So CHEERS! to the band he's rehearsing with at this moment, a band which I adore (the founding member of which will be officiating our marriage next month, in fact), and SALUTE! to recognizing the difference between difficult and bad.

I've found that good things are never easy. And that makes them more valuable to me*.

*Also, I've been given explicit permission to write about the reality behind this industry, as I've experienced it, which I've wanted to do for a long time now, so I'm pretty excited about that. The entire thing is amazing, stressful as fuck, and waaaaaaaay different than the general population might guess.

(Plus, our dogs are almost never home alone. They love it.)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Holiday!

So this might be controversial.

I'm watching Home Alone right now, and I'm so confused. It's basically April at this point, it's in the 90s on a regular basis, and I'm as far from the holiday spirit as they come.

But I'm watching Home Alone, which (as every good 90s kid knows), is a Holiday Movie.

Holiday Movie is a special place reserved in the hearts of sentimental people and children, and for the rest of us, it really only "works" between November 20th and January 4th.

Yet, every year, I'm wondering why Christmas movies are on the television during the weeks leading up to my birthday. In April. (I promise, this is a scientific study because I have a control group: my birth certificate.)

And then Nigel made me realize that it's happening because advertisers do focus groups and market research and know in a scientific way that Americans respond to holiday nostalgia during the religious holidays that many of them celebrate.

Simply said, Easter = Home Alone.

Because Jesus.

So many things to say about what this implicates about the culture I live in (and participate very willingly in), but I just realized this will be incredibly interesting to ponder.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Bumper to bumper

Perhaps the most famous Los Angeles resident is the traffic. It's alive, and it seems to have a mind of its own.

I remember encountering a similar phenomenon when living in Minneapolis and commuting to St. Paul for night school. Rush hour is inescapable regardless of geography - throw in some snow and black ice...you better hope you don't have to pee any time soon. It once took me over three hours to get to my class, and BOY did I pay for being late on the first day.

Here's the difference though: in Los Angeles, the traffic is bad all of the time, not just during weather emergencies (which, here, means a light drizzle and PANIC), so it's easier to keep track of the times when traffic DIDN'T SUCK ASS than the times it does.

To be fair, the Twin Cities has about 3 million residents. Los Angeles has 13 million. More cars is always more trouble.

I mentioned my commute recently. Now that I work in Marina del Rey, it takes between 60 minutes (on a really good day) and 120 minutes (on a day when you do NOT want to hang out with me) to get home from work. Most days, it takes an hour and a half, each way.

Here's the thing, though: I live about 25 miles from work. Now, I'm incredibly bad at math, but that tells me I should be able to make it home in 1 hour, if I'm driving at the average speed of 25 miles per hour. ON THE FREEWAY. Working with 4 to 8 lanes, each direction. But really, I'm only averaging about 16 mph.

My primary freeway is the 405, which is nearly a curse word around here. It's an inter-state freeway connected to the ports of LA and Long Beach (can you say cargo trucks?!), the airport (taxis and confused tourists in rental cars, anyone?), the tourist draws known as Venice and Santa Monica (good luck trying to park, if you ever make it to the beach), and is a main artery between LA and Orange counties (many people cross county lines for work, which reminds me of the "Damn cheese heads commuting to the Twin Cities every day, jamming up our traffic, get a job in Wisconsin!" debate I used to hear quite a bit in my other life).

But I like the 405. I'm comfortable with the 405. I know the exits, I know where it goes and where it doesn't, I know which interchanges are the most backed up, and I know I'll get to wave to the Goodyear blimp where it posts up over by the Ikea in Carson.

People out here will advise you to Avoid the Freeways! (Countless have said, "Stay away from the 405 at all costs.") I hear that so often, and from so many people, I'm starting to think it's an actual lifestyle called Avoiding the Freeways. Like being vegan, but with more talk radio. And road rage.

I've dabbled in the lifestyle by finding alternate routes on surface streets. That approach seemed to be faster, especially as I learned new ways of getting between those streets when traffic was more congested than usual. What I enjoy about the lifestyle are the periods where my speedometer goes above 40 mph. I'm actually driving! I'm going home! I will get there at some point! I WILL NOT DIE OUT HERE!

But I eventually realized that it isn't really quicker for me to take surface streets because of the stoplights, pedestrians and bus stops. It literally takes the same amount of time, but sometimes it feels faster. So that's an option I pull out about three days a week.

There's also the popular hybrid option, which is using a combination of surface streets (to avoid sections of freeway which are notorious for gridlock) and interstates or freeways (to get a direct shot in the direction I'm heading). The hybrid lifestyle is to the avoidance lifestyle as vegetarians are to vegans, and it's common for people to go back and forth between them, depending on the Tuesday dinner special.

Sometimes, like last night, I go full on freeway hugger and just stick it out, rolling three feet before stopping completely for thirty seconds, waiting ten minutes to change lanes because...well, it's hard to make space for another car when the entire freeway is at a standstill. And because people are assholes (they, too, are sitting in traffic).

Aside from the daily work commute, living in Los Angeles opens you up to an entire world of Things Which Make Traffic Suck.  The reasons are similar to those in cities all over the world, like last week when the President and First Lady flew into LAX and drove all over the place, shutting down roads (but probably looking fabulous). Traffic is always worse when the Lakers have a game, or the Angels or the Vikings, etc. Concerts, of course, are at saturation level.

But there are few places in the country (Nashville probably, and Austin, I've heard) who have the sheer volume of concerts that LA enjoys. They're everywhere, all of the time, in countless historical venues. I get email alerts on a daily basis, listing things I can see that very night by big acts (and thousands of small ones), but that will also likely affect my commute time, regardless of whether I want to see the Foo Fighters play the iHeartRadio theater on a Tuesday night.

The worst offenders, in my opinion, are accidents.

People run over motorcyclists at an alarming rate out here (twice this month, I've seen two riders avoid being hit by a car by the skin of their teeth). I've seen cars up against guard rails at angles that don't make sense in any way, because how in the HELL did your trunk wind up in the air as the result of a single vehicle accident on a road with a speed limit of 35?! People drop mattresses and appliances from their trucks onto the freeway, people drive 30 miles an hour below the speed limit, people zip between lanes like they're playing Tetris.

I see fender benders every single day, usually involving two cars, sometimes a dozen. In fact, during the last week, I was nearly rear-ended. Twice. I heard their brakes lock up behind me as they stamped on the pedal, and thank god it worked both times. I've nearly swiped the bumper of the car in front of me while changing lanes.

One little fender bender, pulled to the shoulder and not blocking lanes, will still back up the traffic for miles, so (as you can imagine) those involved in the accident are also the lucky recipients of a LOT of dirty looks, flipped birdies, and horn honks. You broke your tail light?! Oh, no. Poor baby. Here, let me dry your eyes while I stab you for adding an hour to my drive, asshole. Watch where you're going.

So I'm considering a fourth lifestyle, which involves buses and metro rail lines. The list of pros and cons is considerable, because yeah: I could read and watch videos online during the commute instead of listening to NPR and wishing for death. But I can't smoke on buses, and what if I have to pee? I can't just pull into a McDonalds and make the bus wait for me.

They take about the same amount of time, but I can control my environment in my car, whereas on the bus, I'll be forced to listen to obnoxious ghetto teenagers discuss (scream, really) how much their friend is a faggot and how "thug" they all are. In my car, I can run errands on the way home. On the bus, I can only bring what I'm willing to drag between buses and carry home from the bus stop. Bus fare is a hell of a lot cheaper than gas for my car (although I'd have to do the math to determine if that's true when paid on a daily basis).

I'm returning to school in July to finish my English degree, so the bus would allow me to study for three hours a day. It would be productive instead of maddeningly blank down-time.

But I don't like people that much, and strangers would be forced to interact with me twice daily, and really...nobody wants that.

So, for now at least, I'll just keep rolling home.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Confession

So, I have a confession to make, as the title of this post so subtly suggests:

I own two dogs who are Inside Poopers.

That's right, they use potty pads, most of the time. And they almost never go for walks.

There's a lot of mopping involved in this situation because dogs don't seem to understand spatial reasoning. They walk, all hunched over (and hilarious) while they shit. They pee in the vicinity of the pad, but not actually on the pad, not every time. There's an entire 3 foot quadrant of the tile floor near our closet that we completely avoid, because if we step in the pee, it will be tracked all over the damned place, which will result in dog pee-coated sheets, eventually.

We almost never walk our dogs.

Let me pause here for outraged judgments from the Interweb.

Yes, we're horrible people. We adopted two unwanted Chihuahuas (technically, I adopted Pablo, then I met Nigel, then - months later - we adopted Penny) and forced them to get their nails trimmed and eat enough food to have two humans who are endlessly devoted to them, all of the time.

I know, we're reprehensible.

The thing is, as I've learned in my years of adopting and fostering rescue dogs, they're as different as people. I don't personally enjoy walking. It's not fun for me. It's what I do to get from point A to point B, but I don't wake up and head out for a stroll. Not just for the fuck of it.

But I realize that dogs need exercise, some breeds more than others, and despite being perfect for apartment (hole) living, Chihuahuas are no different.

But...these dogs. So, Pablo loves to walk. Sometimes. Occasionally. Depending upon what other dogs or people we meet on the sidewalk. He's just as happy to race around on the back patio, or crawl under the blankets on the bed and lick the sheets until I'm sure his tongue will fall off. I don't even want to know what he's tasting on our sheets.

Penny...she is TERRIFIED of everything. Everything. I'm not even kidding. We've had her for a long time now, and she still quivers when I look in her direction. When we go for walks - if I don't carry her - she shakes as if she's caught in the inevitable Big One Earthquake SoCal has coming.

So that's a really good excuse for me to not walk them very often. They don't (generally) enjoy it. They don't have a lot of excess energy to burn off. They aren't unhappy, they have more consistent attention and love than ever before in their lives, and they are Home. Forever.

I like to think that if I lived in a walk-friendly (not scary as fuck) neighborhood, that we'd work with them more to get acclimated to experiencing new things and going new places. But I don't know if that's true.

What I know is true. 

I'm lazy. I don't want to walk (for fun!) after working 8 or 9 hours, then driving in traffic for 90 minutes (to two hours)((one direction, every day)), then arriving home to tell several street people that I won't give them money on the way to my front door.

I'm not even sure where I'm going with this, except that I sometimes feel guilty about the lack of walking my dogs. So I'll get Nigel and the pups all geared up, and we'll walk around a few blocks, and (afterwards), the dogs seem even happier to be back home afterwards than I feel. They don't pull on the leashes to drag us back to an interesting spot down the block. They don't whine at the door to be let out.

And when I cuddle them, as I do every single night, they close their eyes, and their mouths curl up in (what I assume is) pleasure, and they dance when I get home, and they cry when I leave the apartment, so I like to think they're happy. And I know they're pretty healthy.

So yeah, I'm a lazy dog owner, but I think they might turn out okay.

And I can never EVER have human children.

I hear those don't acclimate as well.

Friday, March 06, 2015

The "Ever After" is officially happening

We're officially planning a wedding.

We got engaged last May, and until very recently, we just knew we wanted to get married sometime this year; maybe a courthouse affair, maybe a church, maybe in California, maybe Kentucky (where Nigel - inexplicably, if you consider his pseudonym on this blog - grew up.

The primary reason for our indecision was deciding where to hold the event, because his family is all out of state but his friends are largely here. My family is all over the country, but (as you know), this is not my first go-round in the nuptial department.

I have to assume people lose interest in the ceremony of the union when they have to repeat the process. Repeatedly.

On Valentine's Day, we went to the beach. Yes, that's right - thanks to the heavenly weather enjoyed by us suburban Angelinos, we went to the beach and enjoyed the sunshine and the warm weather on February 14th.

Remind me again why I didn't move here YEARS ago?

Call us sentimental, but on the short drive from our ghetto to the pier, we decided to get married on the anniversary of our engagement - May 18th. We decided to say our vows near the campground we visited the weekend before he proposed.

(He had the ring with him on that camping trip, but something told him to wait, which is awesome, because now I can say we got engaged in an historic cemetery on Wilshire with the posthumous blessing of both Don Knotts and Marilyn Monroe. And it makes an awesome story.)

We decided to elope, basically, but to also invite our closest circle of friends and family and to do our best to make clear that their presence would be a blessing, but was in no way an obligation or expectation. It turned out harder to word that invitation than I imagined, but I think we did okay.

After making that decision, we sat on the beach, feeding the seagulls, searching for seashells, and sneaking illicit sips of beer from a water bottle.

Then one of those little planes flew by, and it was trailing a banner, and the banner itself was a marriage proposal. I don't remember the names, but we were in awe (and promptly speculated what might happen, should the intended bride refuse the proposal.)

That has to be a sign, right?

We began interviewing potential ministers - those who can be hired online, and who are willing to travel to the Angeles National Forest for the occasion - but soon, we discovered that a beloved friend is ordained, and he offered to marry us himself. We could not be more excited about that development.

I read some blogs about other people who sent invitations to their elopement (like this one), and I was inspired: Our elopement will be exceedingly casual. Sure, I'll probably find a cute little dress to wear, and Nigel may wear a blazer or something, but there will be no formal invitation. No gift registry. There will be no formal schedule. No cocktail hour. If it's raining, we'll be wet. No dollar dance, no bouquet throwing, no catered dinner.

Actually, our wedding feast will likely be of the Costco and Hebrew National hot dog variety.

Due to the nature of Nigel and myself, and our friends, there will undoubtedly be much music and signing around the campfire. And that sounds beyond perfect to this bride.

The plan is to camp one night, get married the next afternoon at the lake near the campground, then camp on the wedding night.

We've reserved our spot, and we've let others know how to do the same, should they wish to. We're created an event page for the possible attendees, but now my dilemma truly is deciding whether to invite more of my local family.

Of COURSE, I would be thrilled if they wanted to attend, but I also know that with the receipt of a Wedding Invitation - even an Elopement Invitation - comes an inherent sense of obligation, and I definitely don't want that to be the case. They're endlessly supportive, and I'm probably over-thinking it. But still, I'm trying to decide how to approach this one.

My other (really, ONLY other) concern is that of not being able to shower on my wedding day. It's really not possible, so I've got to find a way to "fix myself up" using the visor mirror of my car and no electronic hair styling devices.

I'm thinking patchouli and ponytail.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

I'm thinking that it's really an opportunity to "write what I know." Eventually.

So, I've mentioned before that I don't live in a *great* neighborhood.

Let me just point out that I'm not exaggerating, but it could be worse. I mean, this happened about 2 weeks ago, and it happened literally in front of my apartment (I wasn't home, but Nigel was...more involved than I'm comfortable with), but still. Not a great place to live.

Why do we live here?

Well, it's cheap. Of course, people who can afford to move to a less dangerous area do exactly that, all of the time, and they enjoy less crime and less harassment and less...of a window into the human condition, I suppose.

And this area is - by FAR - not the worst there is. Trust me, there have been two police-involved shootings/deaths in the last 10 days. Los Angeles is a huge, diverse city, and with that comes the increased chance of  bizarre or awful events in my life. Most of what I've experienced here, though, has been life-changing, and in the good way. Currently, mine is just a problem of neighborhood.

I want to move, don't get me wrong. But our situation is such that it doesn't make sense to move right now. I have pepper spray, a protective (and large) fiancĂ©, a car alarm, and a general sense of how to be safe as a woman in a semi-hood area.

I remember, very specifically, a Minneapolis news broadcast warning women how to be safe in the winter, especially in light of rapes that were occurring on college campuses at the time.

Basically, when you're really fucking cold, your inclination is to hunker down inside of your winter coat. Not a good idea, they advised.

Predators (regardless of where you are in the world, I believe this is true) are looking for people/women who are absorbed in the act of staying warm or comfortable. The best defense is to be on the offense.

Look around yourself, constantly. Take very visible steps to make it known that you're aware of the people, objects, and streets around you. Notice everything. Predators are much less likely to attack someone if the potential victim is visibly alert and attentive.

I'm not saying that it's a victim's job to prevent crime. I'm not saying it's your fault if you are attacked in any way. What I'm saying is that I'm trying to make myself a LESS likely target by not appearing to be oblivious to my surroundings.

If nothing else, I know that when I make a concerted effort to notice everything around me, I feel more safe.

When I came home last night, there was another police barricade - this time, a whole city block down from my apartment, which was heartening only in that I could get to my front door without having to explain my life story (convincingly) to a cop, and wasn't worried that I'd be stuck outside for hours, like Nigel was last week.

I saw the ghetto bird, as they call helicopters here, circling my neighborhood as I approached, and I just KNEW something stupid was happening. Apparently, it was something SO stupid that it didn't make even the local newspaper, despite me looking for quite a while.

But it still pissed me off. Not because I live here and deal with the shit, but because it happens at all. Why are people driven to these extremes, in my direct environment? Why are teenage kids trying to rob a convenience store with guns? Why would that ever occur to a fucking teenage kid? My vice, as a teen, was self-mutilation and attempting to acquire an eating disorder.

Any maybe those things aren't really that different, because my goal was to be widely accepted and revered, and I tend to believe that kids who do dangerous and illegal things (like armed robbery and shooting at cops) are on a different version of the same path that I might have taken.

And...I guess the crazy thing is that I just don't understand any of it, not even with all of these years of life. I don't understand why people hate other people. I don't understand why people die of starvation, living under the freeway that I drive under every day. I certainly do not understand entire countries or religions trying to murder each other over syntax. I don't understand why I binge-watch horrible reality TV when I could be doing something helpful.

The human existence is so much more incredibly complicated than anyone ever told me it would be.

And yet...it fascinates me to no end. And I'm not sure what that says about me.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Meat market

So I was walking to my car this morning - it was 3/4 to 1 mile away, thanks to the fact that there's no off-street parking in this neighborhood.

I don't like walking around here alone, ever. Buts it's broad daylight, and I wanted a bacon egg and cheese biscuit. Sometimes it's a sacrifice.

I noticed a Honda Civic had driven past me twice, which is kind of weird, but everything here is weird, so I clutched my pepper spray a little closer and started paying more attention.

The Civic came by again, this time slowing as it turned into the street behind me, and someone yelled an animal-sounding growl out of the window.

At this point, it was clear that the car was circling ME, not the block. So, um, let me set the scene for you: I was out until after 2 a.m. I have mascara all over my face. I have the puffy, too many beers effect on my face. I'm literally wearing Nigel's jacket, which is frumpy on me and too big. Long story short, I do NOT look good. Like, not even a little bit.

After a fourth time seeing the Civic circle back to drive past me, I started getting pissed off. Living here, I've been solicited for prostitution just walking to my car. I've been cat-called and approached by countless people, and that's not even counting the homeless ones who ask for money or booze every fucking day. What happened this morning is not uncommon, but it's scary every time.

Finally, I got to a more public area by a car wash, with people everywhere, so I figured I was out of the woods. Safety in numbers, and all that.

I crossed PCH and got into my car, only to see the Civic pulling right the fuck up to my window (which is stuck down because of some electrical failure in the door that I swear I'm going to have fixed at some point), and I looked away, hoping the driver would just...drive.

"S'cuse me, I don't mean no disrespect..."

I glared at him. No disrespect? He just stalked me for fifteen minutes. I was on foot, he was in a car.

"Do you have a name?"

Which, first of all, is the lamest pickup line in the world. No, sir. I do not have a name. Nobody calls me anything, ever. On my social security card, it just says, "______________." Fucking idiot.

"I'm engaged," was all I could think to say, and he repeated that he meant no disrespect, and drove away.

I was shaking, I was so mad. What in the hell did he expect to happen, best-case scenario? Would I be flattered that he took the time to drive around several blocks in circles, over and over again, trying to scare the fuck out of me? Would I think him so handsome that I'd hop in his car and ride off into the afternoon marine layer?

I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS SHIT. And I hate this neighborhood.